Connect with us

Thai Life

Phuket Diving: Rise into Cathedral’s darkness



PHUKET: Our dive team surfaces into the blackness of “The Cathedral”, torch beams bounce off the yellow walls and catch stalactites hanging from the ceiling like delicate icicles well above us.

With BCDs inflated the team relaxes. Below, the water glows, changing from a sapphire blue to an emerald green within the depths – this is Koh Haa Yai.

In Phuket, or almost anywhere off Thailand’s Andaman coast, if you hear about someone heading out on a liveaboard you assume they are headed up to the (now recently re-opened for the season) Similan National Park.

The Similans continue to be ranked as one of the top diving destinations in the world. However, such a distraction means that “hidden” treasures like the startling beautiful dive sites of Koh Haa (Five Islands) are left unexplored by many of our Phuket’s divers and visitors.

Our southbound liveaboard leaves Chalong Pier wrapped up in the dark of Friday night, we anchor off of Koh Phi Phi for our morning dive and then move toward Koh Haa’s five uninhabited limestone outcroppings.

With no night dives on the books for Friday, the boat’s guests crack the seals on a couple bottles and start fantasizing about the mega fauna that is also known to visit the islands. Black tip sharks, leopard sharks and manta rays all get their fair mention, but most on the boat are holding out for a whale shark.

Thankfully, no one was holding their breath.

Charismatic mega fauna is hit or miss even in places like the Similans. So a dive site or trip that only offers you a chance at spotting these incredible creatures, and nothing else, is a dangerous holiday gamble. Our trip, despite not giving us “standard” bragging rights of sharks, left the whole boat buzzing with excitement.

Our group of divers float at the ocean’s surface waiting to descend for a second dive at Koh Haa Yai. The deep bottom, 30 meters below, is clearly visible. At the surface, we work our way toward the rock faces jutting out of the ocean, watching the bottom rise to about 18 meters where it meets the cavernous entrance to “The Cathedral”.

Submerged, our group of divers scours the walls of the entrance, where the light begins to fade, searching for nudibranchs and ornate ghost pipe fish. In the middle of the enormous cave, a nudibranch, smaller than a child’s finger nail, is caught by a diver’s torch beam as it gyrates in the “open” water.

A slow ascent to 12 meters reveals a large swim through to the cave’s second largest entrance. Hovering at the opening, the blue of the ocean is framed by the jagged edges of the cave entrances on both sides.

A momentary ascent to the surface inside the cave leaves us in the darkness, bubbles from divers below tickle our chins. Immediately you know that this is the moment that will drive the chatter on the boat.

Bobbing at the surface, it was clear that a manta ray or a whale shark wasn’t necessary for inspiration.

The effects of the ocean and the rain over millennia are themselves awe inspiring. A cathedral in its own right, and only accessible to the world through diving.

— Isaac Stone Simonelli


Get more from The Thaiger

Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.

Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.

Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.

Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Follow Thaiger by email:

Travel8 hours ago

Where to find underrated international cuisines in Bangkok

Bangkok9 hours ago

Chinatown manhole covers to use art, tech to become cultural map

Transport10 hours ago

Man fights Indian Railways for 22 years for justice (and 9 baht)

Events12 hours ago

Tourism Minister visits Full Moon Party, supports later curfew

Crime12 hours ago

Thais cautioned against fake government websites

Thailand13 hours ago

Another Thai boxer dies from brain injury after fight in Malaysia

Join the conversation on the Thaiger Talk forums today!
Thailand13 hours ago

Expats in Thailand, Cartoon characters & Letting Loose | Thaiger Bites

Pattaya13 hours ago

VIDEO: Young Thais have a blast at Pattaya Music Festival weekend 2

Pollution14 hours ago

Anti-Corruption Network complains of smelly wastewater in coastal Thai province

Weather14 hours ago

Flooding from overflowing rivers soaks Chiang Rai and the border

Phuket15 hours ago

Phuket police nab 3,373 meth pills from 5 suspects

Pattaya18 hours ago

Pattaya night club owner gives free meals on Thai Mother’s Day

Thailand18 hours ago

Current Thailand Visa Options for Digital Nomads

Central Thailand18 hours ago

Police find fake Covid-19 tests worth millions in central Thailand

World19 hours ago

UPDATE: Rushdie is talking again, attacker pleads not guilty

Thailand11 months ago

Morning Top Stories Thailand | Police to end protests, Human Trafficking | September 14

Thailand1 year ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

Tourism1 year ago

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Phuket1 year ago

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

Tourism1 year ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand1 year ago

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

Tourism1 year ago

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11